Studio: Universal/Imagine Films
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 50GB Blu-ray Disc, 1080p High Definition 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Ron Howard
Starring Cast: Kevin James, Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly
OSAGE'S PLOT ANALYSIS:
Look – I don’t know what “Ritchie” from Happy Days was thinking when he veered off his usual path and made this absolute travesty, but I’ll tell you this – we couldn’t even finish watching the film we thought it was so bad. Staying up until the sun broke through our windows while we viewed this Blu-ray, we just gave up with at least 20 minutes left. This was supposed to be a comedy? From what planet and by which standard? Normally, I enjoy most material Vince Vaughn is in today – from the excruciatingly funny Couples Retreat to his solid performance in The Break Up and even going as far back as the remake of Psycho, where I thought he held his own as a stand-in for Anthony Hopkins in the original Hitchcock thriller. But this was painful to watch – to begin with, Vaughn, who normally headlines these films as of late with dominating marquee status, looked really….I don’t know…swollen, bloated and ill in this, giving his physical appearance onscreen a difficult image to focus on. Secondly, there was simply no chemistry between him and Kevin James, who, honestly, is getting a bit annoying to watch in these so-called “comedy dramas;” sure, James was okay in Hitch as the bumbling idiot trying to date the world’s richest and hottest girl, opposite Will Smith, but him and Vaughn just didn’t gel here.
Then, there’s the problem of the film itself – or possibly the writing for it – as it’s labeled a “comedy” but honestly got one or two chuckles out of me and my wife while we viewed it for my review. I realize this title has been out awhile now, but I have been backed up with many other freelance projects, and this was just dumped on my desk to do for one of my editors (and subsequently, I wrote this separate review for this and some other sites). I wish I could get the hour and a half of my life back which I spent watching The Dilemma. The premise is actually interesting, and, as usual today, if executed differently, I am sure it could have been side splitting; I don’t know if Ron Howard was still recovering from the polarizing feedback from some of his other more serious-flavored films, but this was not funny nor entertaining, and it boasted a really odd dialogue stream between the characters that was just simply “off.” James and Vaughn – as I said, an odd onscreen team, physically and acting style wise – portray two business partner friends who build and engineer sports car engines. Vaughn is dating Jennifer Connolly, while James is married to Winona Ryder, but their relationships are turned upside down when Vaughn catches Ryder with another man while he is visiting a botanical garden where he plans to pop the question to Connolly. In the midst of a business deal the two of them are about to enter with Chrysler to put their engines into some of their cars, the pressure mounts as Vaughn is caught in The Dilemma, wherein he does not know if he should tell his best friend or not about what his own wife has been doing behind his back. The acting is atrocious and ridiculous through most of the running time, as Vaughn eventually confronts Ryder at a hockey game they’re all at and tells her that he knows about her fling with the jag-off tattooed younger guy (aptly named “Zip”). With his threats to reveal her cheating to James, she decides to blackmail Vaughn in a way by telling him that she will reveal to her husband that Vaughn has been coming onto her, based on a one night stand they had back in college before James and her were together. Even though this isn’t true, Ryder makes her tears and performance very convincing, which makes Vaughn reconsider his threat to tell his friend and business partner. In the middle is an absolutely wasted Queen Latifah, who portrays a strange Detroit “consultant” to Chrysler Motors, but her role and character is so weird and irrelevant, I don’t even know why she was in the film.
The remainder of the film focuses on Vaughn doing some really stupid things to “spy” on Ryder and her young lover Zip after she promises Vaughn that she’ll never see him again…but continuously does. He climbs up a tree outside his Chicago apartment to try and snap pictures of them screwing like rabbits all over his place, but eventually when Ryder leaves, Zip confronts Vaughn and attacks him in the street with a bat. This entire sequence goes on for awhile, and gets absolutely ludicrous as these two men scream at each other, with Vaughn yelling “You son of a...!” continuously as Zip beats his classic convertible muscle car in with the bat. More mayhem ensues, as Zip starts to cry in front of Vaughn’s character when he’s made aware that who he has confronted is the best friend of the husband whose wife he’s tapping – as I said, ridiculous and stupid.
From there…well…it just doesn’t matter, honestly. As a compulsive gambler, Vaughn’s character is eventually thrown into an intervention by his girlfriend and friends, who show up at his apartment – with Zip right there in the middle – but Vaughn quickly uses this opportunity to tell James about his wife’s infidelities with Zip. Of course, the whole film leads up to this moment, whereby you don’t know if Vaughn’s character is going to actually go through with ratting Ryder out, and to make matters sillier, in wondering if she is going to go through with her threats of making up a lie about her and Vaughn, she doesn’t, instead admitting to James that she’s been cheating on him despite his insistency on visiting a massage parlor every week to get a “happy ending.” Whatever.
As I said, we couldn’t even finish the disc – we turned it off with at least 20 minutes left, and believe me, you won’t be missing anything.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Universal has been a major proponent in stunning looking Blu-rays since the format’s launch, and for the most part, the 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p encode on The Dilemma follows in those footsteps. While a film, the video transfer, particularly in outdoor, sun-drenched shots, was outstanding. Loaded with eye popping detail and clarity, these sequences (day-lit, bright shots) teemed with high definition characteristics – such as plants, trees and foliage looking almost surreal in their vividness and dimension, wet city streets appearing so detailed they can almost be stepped upon from your display, etc. – and color definition looked accurate, with skintones that didn’t appear washed out or oversaturated. The only issues I noticed – which I’ve seen on other BD transfers thus far, including a couple from Universal – had to do with a bit of softness during some sequences, particularly during darker ones where characters’ faces were in up-close shots and exhibitions. A type of hazy, gauzey film drenched some of these scenes, making the transfer take on a bit of a softness which, at times, became a distracting contrast from a razor-sharp sequence loaded with color and detail that may have come before or after it.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
While Universal’s Blu-ray release of Couples Retreat actually sounded great in DTS-HD Master Audio (for a comedy title), The Dilemma falls short of that soundtrack, with limited dynamic range and an overall disappointing soundstage. However, the mix gets the job done for this type of film, offering reasonably clear dialogue, decent spread through the main front channels and more; what was lacking here was LFE and surround activity. The aforementioned Vince Vaughn laughfest Couples Retreat was a great example of how to get a comedy soundtrack right – there was plenty of musical energy on that 5.1 Master Audio mix, accompanied by outstanding usage of environmental fill in the rear stage but in a subtle fashion befitting the type of film it was.
However, Couples Retreat was a much better film, too.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
Skip it. Unless there’s nothing left to rent.
Tell me what you thought!!